Singing to her heart's content
Nurses use nursery rhymes, lullabies to help calm little girl
The three nurses looked at each other at a loss on how they could help the baby girl crying on the echocardiography table.
Little Charlotte Friessen, 7 months old, arrived at Cook Children’s only 30 minutes prior and was rushed to the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. She needed an echocardiogram on her heart so she could get the help she needed. She needed to relax to get the proper readings before treatment could begin. But Charlotte was afraid and unhappy.
The years of training and experience weren’t enough for Tiffany Cox, Jen Jones and Mary Brennan. They needed to find something new to calm Charlotte down to get the ultrasound imaging of her heart.
What to do?
“Charlotte hated the little Doppler on her. The three nurses were doing everything they could to help her,” Anne Friessen, Charlotte’s mom, said. “They were talking to her and nothing worked. Then one of the nurses said, ‘Let’s sing nursery rhymes. The nurses had a blast.’”
The nursery rhymes and lullabies worked to perfection. Charlotte stopped crying. At least until the nurses stopped singing to think of new songs. Each time they stopped, Charlotte began to cry. Soon, everyone hit their stride and even Lane Lanier, M.D., a pediatrician on the Cardiac Specialty Care Unit team, joined in on harmonies.
Cox spent most of her career working with adults in the Intensive Care Unit and Cardiovascular ICU. She says one of the things she loves about Cook Children’s that she couldn’t do in the adult world of nursing “is be silly and play.”
“I have found such a deep joy working with these children and babies. The needs of kids, the things that make them feel better, are usually so simple,” Cox said. “If a little spontaneous singing and making silly faces with my colleagues makes a child in the CVICU smile and feel better, I will do it all day long. I happened to be across the hall that day with my own patient, and heard this poor darling across crying her eyes out during the echo, and I really just wanted to come ‘play’ with my colleagues. They were trying everything to make her feel better.”
But come on - how many nursery rhymes do you know off the top of your head? “We even ‘performed’ a sing-song version of the theme-song rap from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” Cox said. The three of us and the patient’s mom are about the same age and grew up watching that show. I mean, who gets to do THAT at work?! I love this place.”
The singing also helped ease Anne’s mind for a little while too. After all, so much had happened in such a short period of time.
“They sang so many nursery rhymes,” Anne said. “I felt like I stepped into an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. They sang for the entire echo. It was really neat.”
A month earlier, Charlotte was taken to see her pediatrician in Andrews, Texas. During her well-child visit, doctors found she had a heart murmur. About three weeks later, a specialist in Lubbock diagnosed Charlotte with a coarctation of the aorta. This means a narrowing of the aorta, requiring the heart to pump harder to allow blood through the narrow part of the aorta.
The family was immediately rushed to Cook Children’s and immediately the care began for Charlotte.
“The nurses met us as soon as we got there,” Anne said. “Everyone was so great. They helped us handle the situation a little more peacefully. Up until then, I had been so wide eyed about everything that happened. We talked to Dr. Lanier and all the nurses, I felt so confident in their work. They were so happy that we chose their hospital. Dr. Lanier thanked us so many times for letting him take care of our daughter. It made me feel good. Even through this horrible situation, it gave me peace.”
The next day, Vincent Tam, M.D., Cook Children's medical director of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Cook Children’s Heart Center, performed the surgery to fix the aorta. Anne said she and her husband, Albert, felt comforted during the surgery. Since the heart murmur was detected, the family's church had been praying for Charlotte and now they were praying for everyone taking care for the little girl.
“So many people, from all over the place, were praying for Charlotte,” Anne said. “But they were not only praying for us, but our doctors and the nurses too. Everything just went so smoothly. We were home in less than a week.”
Other than getting her high blood pressure under control, which was expected after her surgery, Charlotte is back to her normal self. She’s sitting up, playing and holding her own bottle.
And while Charlotte may not remember her time at Cook Children’s, it’s a moment the nurses will never forget.
“It was a special few minutes to be able to serve her and her family in that simple way,” Jones said. “I love that being a nurse sometimes means lots of time management and critical thinking, and sometimes means simply singing nursery rhymes over a scared baby girl.”